It happened in less than 10 seconds. A Chicago police officer fired more than a dozen shots into a car of unarmed black teenagers. Footage from the dashboard camera inside officer Marco Proano’s police car captures the incident on December 22, 2013.
Last week, the Reporter posted exclusive video of the shooting given to us by retired Cook County Judge Andrew Berman. Hundreds of thousands of people watched the video and read the accompanying story by reporter Jonah Newman. Two of the teenagers were injured, and bystanders seen in the background of the video were threatened by the gunfire.
The video is at the center of a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of the teens against the city and three police officers, which was settled in March.
Most viewers expressed anger at the incident, but some questioned our motives in posting the video.
Berman, a respected judge with a long career on the bench and as a public defender, called the incident the most “disturbing” thing he had seen in his career. He hopes the video will help hold Proano, who has been the target of previous complaints, accountable for “outrageous overuse of deadly force.”
I remember the grainy home video of Los Angeles police officers beating Rodney King on the side of a highway in 1991. It changed the conversation about policing and police abuse. Today, the same thing is happening with the videos from ever-present cell phones and surveillance cameras. Critics argue that the recordings are only a snapshot of an incident. Yet they help illuminate situations where there is typically only one source: the police officer. A video showed Walter Scott being shot multiple times in the back by a North Charleston, S.C., police officer. A video showed Eric Garner being choked to death by a New York City police officer. I could go on.
The Black Lives Matter movement has targeted police violence, an old issue that has taken center stage again half a century after the gains of the civil-rights era. “My first reaction was, if those are white kids in the car, there’s no way they [would] shoot,” Berman, who is white, told the Reporter.
Racial justice drives the conversation about police accountability. But we also need to talk about fiscal accountability. Last year, the city of Chicago paid out more $50 million in police misconduct settlements. In an earlier investigation, the Reporter found that a handful of police officers repeatedly abused the badge, costing the city millions of dollars in settlements.
What’s next in the shooting case? The City Council could meet soon to approve a $360,000 payout for the teenagers. The Independent Police Review Authority is still investigating Proano. And the FBI has not confirmed or denied whether it is investigating the shooting.
The Reporter will stay on the issue.
The video of the officer shooting into the car full of unarmed teens scratches the surface of deep problems with policing and how the city responds to allegations of wrongdoing.